The American Prohibition Era Essay

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Prohibition is a chapter in the history of the United States where the government implemented a nationwide ban on the consumption and sale of alcohol. Although it seems archaic and nonsensical now since most countries allow alcohol consumption, back then, for thirteen years it was considered illegal to buy, sell, and consume alcohol in the United States. A time of bootleggers and social 'Progressives' the Prohibition Era of the United Sates shocked the nation, revealing how important the need was for people to drink. It was a time for many to understand alcohol consumption and in retrospective, see what caused the activity to be outlawed in the first place.

The Prohibition Era: A Brief Background

The Prohibition Era of the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933. January 1, 1920 saw the start of national Prohibition that became effective via the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The driving force behind the national banning of alcohol was the effects alcoholism brought on society. Many that proposed prohibition saw alcoholism as a reason for increased family violence, addition, and political corruption. Therefore, during the late 19th century and early 20th century, pockets of areas in the United States began enforcing alcohol prohibition. Those that supported it saw the act as a victory for public health and ethics.

Nonetheless, what may have seemed like a huge victory for morality, turned into a dangerous means of advancing and increasing the power of street gangs. "By eliminating legitimate suppliers of a commodity in high public demand, the state created a monopoly for illegitimate entrepreneurs. It was Prohibition that converted small, localized gangs into large, powerful, and wealthy regional and even national organized criminal syndicates." (Hagan 32) Street gangs produced and sold bootleg liquor that would then turn huge profits as customers bought regardless of the laws in placed making it illegal.
Although 'Progressives' saw victory in implementing Prohibition, after a few years, the fears that brought it into realization were soon exacerbated by the problem of bootlegging.

Woman's Christian Temperance Union

'Dry' crusaders represented the movement started by social Progressives and pietistic Protestants. The group that established roots for the cause and led to its national consideration was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was one of the first organizations dedicated to social reform that used applied Christianity to set standards from which the country would eventually experience. Activities like woman's suffrage and missionary work marked the first part of the temperance organization with Prohibition signaling the major shift. Interest in Prohibition was then turned after 1900 into the Anti-Saloon League and that is when legislation began to shift in favor of a federal ban on alcohol sales and consumption.

As previously stated, those in support of the move did so because they believed alcohol contributed to the larger social problems of society. The members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), believed alcoholism was not a personal failing or weakness, but rather, a societal problem that could only be resolved through outlawing of the activity. Alcohol was not WCTU's first target. They began in 1885 promoting anti-tobacco articles that would continue all the way to the 1950's. If it were not for the support of the WCTU, historians and researchers believe the movement would not have gained the traction it needed to result in a national banning of alcohol. However, as with most laws, there were loopsholes.


Loopholes existed during the Prohibition Era that allowed for the personal consumption of alcohol and….....

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Works Cited

Engs, Ruth C. The Progressive Era's Health Reform Movement: A Historical Dictionary. Praeger, 2003.

Hagan, Frank E. Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior. SAGE Publications, 2012.

Robertson, Carol. The Little Red Book of Wine Law: A Case of Legal Studies. American Bar Assn., 2008.

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